Photo/Illutration The health ministry building in Tokyo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

People who think they may have COVID-19 but cannot take tests because of strained medical services or kit shortages should continue to self-isolate for at least 72 hours after their symptoms recede, health experts said.

The health experts on a panel advising the government were expected to discuss the new guideline at a meeting on Feb. 2.

According to the ministry’s health care handbook, COVID-19 patients with symptoms can leave hospitals or stop isolating at home or other facilities if they clear one of two conditions.

One condition is that 10 days have passed since the onset of their symptoms and 72 hours have passed since the symptoms disappeared.

The second condition is that they have tested negative twice with a 24-hour interval after their symptoms disappeared.

In the latest surge of COVID-19 cases, medical services to treat feverish outpatients who may be infected have become strained, and antigen test kits that people can use to check if they are infected are running short on supply.

Even people with typical symptoms of the Omicron variant, such as sore throats, fevers or coughing, are finding it difficult to be tested for COVID-19.

Some panel experts said new guidelines should be established on when such people can return to work or school.

According to the guideline draft, Omicron variant symptoms normally continue for a few days.

Therefore, if 72 hours have passed since symptoms disappeared, it means that six or seven days have passed since the person developed the symptoms.

After that period, the risk of them infecting others with the virus is quite low, the draft said.